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Royal purple wool from 3,000 years ago gives a glimpse into King David & Solomon’s wardrobe

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week.

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A glimpse into David and Solomon’s wardrobe

For the first time, rare evidence has been found of fabric dyed with royal purple, dating from the time of King David and King Solomon.

A team of researchers were examining the colored textiles from Timna Valley, which is an ancient copper production district in southern Israel. They found remnants of woven fabric, a tassel and fibers of wool dyed with royal purple.

Radiocarbon dating confirms that these items were from approximately 1000 BCE — which is around the same time that David and Solomon ruled Israel.

The purple dye is often mentioned in the Bible and appears in various Jewish and Christian contexts. It was produced from species of mollusk found in the Mediterranean, over 300 km from Timna.

Purple attire was associated with the nobility, priests, and royalty. This is because the dye was difficult to produce and did not fade. It was the most highly valued of the dyes, often costing more than gold.

Before this, researchers had only ever found mollusk-shell waste and broken pieces of pottery with patches of dye.

Now, for the first time, there is direct evidence of the dyed fabrics from the Iron Ages, preserved for some 3000 years.

New light on Russia’s ‘Dead Mountain’ mystery

Scientists have thrown some light on the infamous Russia’s ‘Dead Mountain’ conspiracy theory. Known as the ‘Dyatlov Pass incident,’ nine young hikers in 1959 died under mysterious circumstances in the snowy Ural Mountains.

The hikers — seven men and two women — had pitched their tents at the base of a small slope. But the night blizzard caused the temperatures to drop to minus 25 degrees Celsius, and the hikers could not make it through the night.

It took nearly a month for investigators to find all nine bodies scattered in the Dead Mountain. Some of the hikers died half-dressed, while others had broken bones and cracked skulls. Their tent, half-buried in the snow had been slashed open from the inside. It still held some of the hikers’ neatly-folded clothes and half-eaten provisions.

Russian investigation then concluded that all nine hikers had died of hypothermia after being cast into the cold “under the influence of a compelling natural force.” Everything from aliens to abominable snowmen have been part of the mystery since then.

But now, scientists have found that under specific environmental conditions, a slab avalanche could have plausibly toppled onto the group as they slept. The snow nearly flattened the tent and caused bone fractures in those sleeping inside. This forced the hikers to cut their way out of the tent.

The team concludes that they must have dragged their wounded comrades behind as they attempted to survive the night in the open air. However, none survived the freezing temperatures.

While the research does not explain every facet of the Dyatlov mystery, it does provide the first scientific proof for what may have transpired that night.

Also read: Scientists find new 100-million-year old flower species inside a piece of amber in Myanmar

Researchers narrow in on mass of dark matter

Scientists have narrowed down on the mass range for dark matter — which can help focus the search for the mysterious matter that is thought to account for approximately 85 per cent of the matter in the universe.

The researchers at the University of Sussex used the established fact that gravity acts on dark matter just as it acts on the visible universe to work out the lower and upper limits of Dark Matter’s mass.

Their findings show that Dark Matter cannot be either ‘ultra-light’ or ‘super-heavy’ — unless there is some undiscovered force that is acting upon it.

The team used the assumption that the only force acting on dark matter is gravity, and calculated that its particles must have a mass between 10-3 eV and 107 eV.

One electron volt is about 1.78×10−36 kilogrammes.

If, however, researchers do eventually isolate dark matter and find its mass is outside of the range predicted by the Sussex team, then it will also prove that an additional mysterious force — apart from gravity — is at work.

Also this week, a team in Greece has discovered the fossilized remains of a tree, which has its branches and roots intact after nearly 20 million years.

The tree was discovered on the volcanic island of Lesbos. The site is near an ancient forest, petrified millions of years ago on the eastern Mediterranean island. Excavations have been on at the site since 1995, but this is the first time that researchers have found a tree with the branches and roots intact.

The fossilised tree, about 19 metres long, was preserved by a thick layer of volcanic ash.

The fossilised tree, about 19 metres long, was preserved by a thick layer of volcanic ash.

Lesbos’ petrified forest is a 15,000-hectare UNESCO-protected site. A volcanic eruption 20 million years ago turned the island’s subtropical forest ecosystem into lava. This site is allowing researchers to reconstruct the ecosystem that existed during that period to gather valuable information of not only the plants but also the animals that lived in these forests.

Also read: Indian Ocean once had world’s most continuously-active volcanic province, find scientists

Dinosaur embryo remains show some babies were born to hunt

Scientists have, for the first time, found remains of the embryo from the group of ferocious dinosaurs that includes the T. rex. The fossils show that the unborn dinosaurs already had jaws and claw bones, indicating that these babies were “born ready” to hunt.

The fossils found represent two species from the group called tyrannosaurs, the apex predators in Asia and North America, towards the end of the dinosaur age.

The fossils indicate that these dinosaur babies were the size of a medium dog — about three feet long — and hatched from eggs that must have been enormous. This means that these were bigger than any other dinosaur babies, and their eggs perhaps exceeded the 17-inch length of the largest dinosaur eggs currently known.

One of the fossils included a 77 million-year-old jawbone, which is about 1.2 inches long. This may have belonged to a species called Daspletosaurus. The other was a 72 million-year-old wedge-shaped claw that may belong to a species called Albertosaurus.

Also read: Fossils suggest world’s largest animal roamed the Earth 98 million years ago


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